Urban and Population Geography working group


Ongoing Research Projects

Urban Dynamics: Global Perspectives for a Socio-cultural Urban Management

Currently, Europe’s urban societies are confronted by massive challenges: economic crises have increased the risk of social dislocation; and political and economic factors have given rise to increasing migratory movements that are generating heterogeneous spaces. In order to prepare graduates for these challenges, the Strategic Partnership „Urban Dynamics“ aims to provide proper formation in the field of socio-cultural urban management. In order to realize its goals, the project team of Kiel University established an interdisciplinary and transnational network. Besides two further European partners – Universidade de Santiago de Compostela and Université Paris 8 –, the Latin American Universidad del Salvador in Buenos Aires and Universidade Federal de Pernambuco in Recife form part of the network. Several learning activities will support students’ international mobility and enable free access to innovative, validatable education materials. The students of the five partner universities will elaborate joint case studies by means of a blended-learning platform. A summer school and a concluding start-up academy will serve to move forward international networking of urban social entrepreneurship. Internships abroad are part of the curriculum, too.

Project webpage: http://www.urbandynamics.eu/

International Meetings
International Symposium March 2016,
Kiel Workshop: „Spaces of/for Urban Cultures“, May 2016,
Santiago (de Compostela) Workshop: „Creative Urban Politics“, 27 March - 1 April 2017

Case Studies:
  Refugee Movements to Europe: Regulation, Distribution, Accommodation? Dipl.-Geogr. Zine-Eddine Hathat, 
  Learning from alternative Spaces? M. Sc. Michael Helten
UD Internship 2016-17

EU Erasmus+ 2015-2017

Prof. Dr. Javier Gómez-Montero, Prof. Dr. Rainer Wehrhahn, Project Manager: Dr. Victor A. Ferretti, Dipl.-Geogr. Zine-Eddine Hathat and Dr. Corinna Hölzl

Transnational social and economic development of German and Polish metropolitan regions

The Collaboration focuses on the question how Polish and German cities and metropolitan regions are developing under the influence of economic and social globalization processes. Specific local framework conditions, the role of economic and cultural creativity for specific urban development processes, and how social geographic perspectives can contribute to the development of space changes at different spatial urban levels are also considered.

The research will take place between 2017 and 2019.


Responsible at the university: Prof. Dr. Rainer Wehrhahn

Responsible at the partner university: Prof. Dr. Tadeusz Stryjakiewicz, Prof. Dr. Tomasz Kaczmarek, Dr. Anna Tobolska

Interplay between area-based security policies and daily security practices in São Paulo, Brazil

In residential areas of the broader Brazilian middle class, security policies have been intensified and, particularly, technical security measures have been massively expanded for several years. This progress influences and limits everyday action patterns of the urban population increasingly, and changes communicative and social structures and processes in local urban space intensively. Referring to the discussion of geographical urban and security studies, it is the main purpose of the project to study daily security-oriented actions, at the microscale level of households, neighbourhoods and districts of the urban middle class in the municipality of São Paulo (Brazil), and to understand their interplay with public and private security policies Therefore, it will be interface a human geographical perspective both with actor-oriented as well as praxeological approaches.

Funding: DFG 2012-2015

Head of Project: Prof. Dr. Rainer Wehrhahn

Research Assistent: Dipl.-Geogr. Dominik Haubrich

For central publications see staff

Transit migrants in the Cities of the Maghreb

For several decades the irregular migration from Africa to Europe has attracted attention from numerous politicians and scholars across different disciplines. Europe and its security policy have been of particular importance. By offering a different perspective on this topic, this dissertation tries to capture the problem more accurate. Considering that most of the migrants do not succeed in crossing the Mediterranean, the Maghreb and the migrants, who settle down in North Africa for some time, are the main focus of interest. The destinations of these so-called transit migrants are the cities, which offer them different ways to finance their temporary stay and a possible onward journey, but in turn are transformed by the migrants. Due to their mostly undocumented status, the migrants face unemployment or employment in the irregular sector, which in turn can lead to several negative side effects, such as illegal labor, prostitution, drug trafficking, human smuggling and human trafficking spreading out in the cities.

Research Assistent: Dipl.-Geogr. Zine-Eddine Hathat

For central publications see staff

Constitution of transnational trader networks. Socio-economical organization of African migrants in Guangzhou/China

- description soon to follow -

Funding: DFG 2010-2014


Head of Project: Prof. Dr. Rainer Wehrhahn

Research Assistant: Dipl.-Geogr. Angelo Müller

For central publications see staff

Housing Submarkets and Rationales behind Local Actions: The Example of the Student Housing Market in Hamburg

In many german university cities the pressure on the housing market has increased over the last years (vgl. BBSR-Analysen KOMPAKT 09/2014). Especially inner city neighborhoods – traditionally prefered by students - are characterised by excess demand for housing. At the same time, the amount of young people, which obtain a university entrance qualification and decide to study, is rising. Therefore, in the following years a constantly high demand of students searching for affordable accomodation can be expected.

Different actors react to this situation: Nonprofit landlords increase their supply, private investors recognize student housing as profitable assett class and local authorities try to direct the demand into neighborhoods, which are not yet in the students' focus. The interaction of local stakeholder actions, the residential distribution of students and their access to the housing market are the main objects of investigation in this research project.

If you are a student in Hamburg and interested in participating in this research project, please follow this link.

For central publications see staff

The negotiation of dispossession – the case of Belo Monte hydroelectric power plant (Pará, Brazil)

The construction of the hydroelectric power plant Belo Monte in the Xingu river basin, Brazil, represents an economic model usually labeled neo-developmentalism, which can be regarded as the Brazilian political and economical elites’ favored development model. Following the logic of “internal colonialism”, it aims at integrating sparsely populated and peripheral regions like the Amazon into national capitalism via neo-extractivist mechanisms and large-scale projects. The example of Belo Monte illustrates that the dispossession of thousands of families – mainly fisher(wo)men, resp. riverines – is not limited to the material sphere. Being forced to leave their homes in Altamira and/or on the surrounding islands, they also have to give up their way of life and their respective identities, neighborhoods, histories etc. The research project analyses these complex forms of dispossession. Based on Butler and Athanasiou (2013), dispossession is conceptualized as a relational and multidimensional process. However, those processes of dispossession are not imposed unilaterally but – in the sense of Arendts (2006[1961]) political action and Tullys (1999) agonic game – occur through diverse forms of contentious negotiation between the responsible consortium, the affected, and other involved actors. In doing so, resistance to dispossession is primarily a struggle for recognition. By analyzing those forms of negotiation, the research projected aims at a conceptual enhancement of the term dispossession which helps to understand the complexity of such large-scale projects and so called processes of development-induced displacement and resettlement.           

Research Assistent: Dipl.-Geogr. Sören Weißermel

For central publications see staff


New urban-regional development processes and urban governance in Central Europe

Funding: DAAD (2014-2016)

Head of Project: Prof. Dr. Rainer Wehrhahn (CAU Kiel) and Dr. Alexander Tölle (Universität Poznan)

For central publications see staff

Completed Research Projects

Flooding in Bangkok: Vulnerability and Adaption in a Social Context

Bangkok Metropolitan Region is subject to periodical and severe flooding triggered by a combination of heavy precipitation and run-off, sea level rise, land subsidence and urban land use in former wetland areas. Furthermore the region is characterized by social and economic inequalities and weak institutions on different spatial levels with respect to flood management, which lead to various types and degrees of vulnerabilities. Against this background, the dissertation project aims at identifying and analyzing social, economic and political factors that determine the vulnerability of households in selected study areas in greater Bangkok. The study areas are the stream island Koh Kred and the inner-city slum Ratchapa-Tubtim-Ruamjai. Subsequently concrete adaptation strategies on the local level but also top-down measures on higher levels are emphasized. Here, the influencing structural conditions, i.e. governance and institutions, are taken into account. The project is based on a qualitative approach consisting of individual interviews and focus groups.

Wissenschaftlicher Mitarbeiter:Dipl.-Geogr. Frederick Massmann

Zentrale Publikation siehe Mitarbeiter

Analysis if Informal Dynamics in Mega Urban Areas - Based on Spatial Structure and Steering Mechanisms Focused on Water in the Pearl River Delta

Transnational migration: Ecuadorians between home, Germany and Spain

Research Assistent: Dr. Ina v. Schlichting

For central publications see staff

Sociodemographic Change in Germany

Our research focuses on the implications of the socio-demographic change in cities and regions in Germany. Our completed resarch projects dealt with Lifestyles and inner-city living, new types of residential arrangements for elderly people, infrastructure adaption for supporting regional und local development and migration and integration as chance and challange for urban development policy.

Research Assistents: Dr. Marco Schmidt und Dr. Katrin Sandfuchs

Raumwirksamkeit von soziodemographischen Prozessen in der Stadt (Dissertation Marco Schmidt),
Kieler Arbeitspapiere zur Landeskunde und Raumplanung, 51, 2010.

Soziodemographischer Wandel und neue Wohnungsmärkte (Dissertation Katrin Sandfuchs);
Kieler Geographische Schriften 120, 2009.
"Stadt, Land, Flucht" in Unizeit (07/09)

City expansion through large-scale projects: Actors, Interests and Strategies in Santiago de Chile

- description soon to follow -

Research Assistent: Dr. Michael Lukas

For central publications see staff

Monographs and Anthologies

Hölzl, C. (2015): Protestbewegungen und Stadtpolitik. Urbane Konflikte in Santiago de Chile und Buenos Aires. Bielefeld.

In 2010, some 13,000 people occupied the second-largest park in Buenos Aires, located in the most deprived area of the city. The city and state governments reacted with violent repression leading to three deaths. After government officials promised that a housing program would be provided, the problem was viewed as “solved.” However, four years later not a single home had been built. Interpretive frames and political practices in Buenos Aires were influenced by the conflict, and this ultimately strengthened the positions of the national and local governments. This, in turn, intensified structural discrimination against lower-income groups in Buenos Aires. Thus, far from bringing about sustainable housing solutions, the occupation reinforced policies of security and sanction.

Link zum Verlag

Haubrich, D. (2015): Sicher unsicher. Eine praktikentheoretische Perspektive auf die Un-/Sicherheiten der Mittelschicht in Brasilien. Bielefeld.

Bercht, A. L. (2013): Stresserleben, Emotionen und Coping in Guangzhou, China. Mensch-Umwelt-Transaktionen aus geographischer und psychologischer Perspektive. Stuttgart.

As recently as 35 years ago, the People’s Republic of China was far from integrated in the process of globalization; it remained, in fact, strongly isolated from the world’s political arena. Today, however, China has the second largest economy in the world; a benefit of the 1978 decision to open up its economic and political policies. Meanwhile, China has experienced inconceivable levels of economic growth, urban expansion and transformation. The megacity Guangzhou, located in the Pearl River Delta in southern China, represents an excellent example that demonstrates this dynamic developmental process. Driven by intense intercity competition on a regional, national and international scale, the Guangzhou government pursues the predominant aim of becoming one of China’s most important railway passenger hubs by constructing in Shibi, a village situated in the periurban area of Guangzhou, the Guangzhou South Railway Station, the largest railway passenger station in Asia.

Taking the large-scale project’s implementation as a key example for rapid urban transformation processes occurring within only a few months or years, and drawing on the transactional stress model of Lazarus, it is one of the two major goals of this present work to analyse the influence of the socioeconomic, ecological and socio-spatial changes (e.g. land expropriation, anticipated resettlement) on the transactions between man and environment with regards to individuals’ subjective perceptions and appraisals of stress, emotions, coping and resilience. Applying a qualitative-interpretive research design including the method of problem-based interviews (with narrative sequences) and the method of autophotography, the complex interrelations and meanings of the different person-environment transactions are investigated epistemologically from the perspective of 62 interviewed residents. The research investigations were carried out from 2007 to 2011.

Due to the complexity and diversity of the research subject, equal attention is given to the features of the following relevant concepts: person-environment transaction, time, perception, appraisal, emotion, behaviour, action, stress, coping and resilience. Each of these concepts is discussed in great detail from both a geographical and a psychological perspective in order to illustrate the added value of a transdisciplinary analysis. Current academic literature has as yet failed to address the present research subject from a transdisciplinary perspective. However, a transdisciplinary reflection might lead to an integrative ‘culture of discourse’. The empirical results indicate that intrapsychological processes of perception, appraisal and action as well as cognitive, preconscious behaviour and directly observable action characterize the active involvement of the interviewees with their environments. In particular, intrapsychological problem- and emotionfocussed, offensive coping modes and person variables such as internal loci of control or optimism have a positive influence on stress experience and individual resilience.

In the context of the urbanization processes in China that are worldwide unique in terms of their dynamics, rapidness and dimensions, the analysis of stress, emotions, coping and resilience opens up a comparatively young and to date insufficiently studied field of research. Its topicality and future relevance make fundamental investigations necessary.


Dissertation available from Steiner Verlag

Sandner Le Gall, V. und R. Wehrhahn (Hrsg., 2012): Geographies of Inequality in Latin America. Kieler Geographische Schriften 123. Kiel. 402 pp.


Wehrhahn, Rainer und Alexander Tölle (Hrsg.): Aktuelle Entwicklungen in norddeutschen und westpolnischen Stadtregionen. Kieler Arbeitspapiere zur Landeskunde und Raumordnung. Heft 53. Jahrgang 2012.


Gilles, A. (2015): Sozialkapital, Translokalität und Wissen. Händlernetzwerke zwischen Afrika und China. Stuttgart, Franz Steiner Verlag (Erdkundliches Wissen. Schriftenreihe für Forschung und Praxis, Band 158)

Massmann, F. (2015): Hochwasser in Bangkok. Verwundbarkeiten und Handlungsstrategien. In: Kieler Geographische Schriften 126. Kiel.

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